Blackwater guards pumped on steroids, lawsuit alleges
WASHINGTON (CNN) — A quarter of Blackwater security guards in Iraq use steroids and other “judgment-altering substances,” according to a lawsuit filed by the families of several Iraqis killed or wounded in a Baghdad shooting in September.
The suit, filed Monday in Washington, accuses the company of fostering “a culture of lawlessness” among its guards and says the use of excessive force helps the company preserve a key selling point — the fact that none of its protectees have been killed during the four-year-old war.
“I think there is a whole corporate culture there that essentially rewards the use of excessive force — shooting first, asking questions later,” said Susan Burke, the lead attorney in the case.
The lawsuit accuses Blackwater of war crimes, wrongful death, assault, negligent hiring and emotional distress. The plaintiffs include two wounded survivors of the September 16 shootings around Nusoor Square, in western Baghdad, and the families of five people killed in the incident. Iraqi authorities say the guards killed 17 people in an act of “premeditated murder.”
Blackwater has denied any wrongdoing, arguing its contractors used necessary force to protect a State Department convoy that came under fire from insurgents.
The lawsuit accuses Blackwater of failing to control the use of steroids among its guards — an allegation Burke said came from “people in that community,” and one she said would be backed up as the case progresses.
“The reality is that Blackwater has indeed fired people for steroid use, so they’re on clear notice that there’s steroid use,” Burke said. She said Blackwater has marketed the idea “that their people are kind of tougher and bigger than anybody else,” and has turned a blind eye toward “serious, repeated situations of excessive use of force.”
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